Photography: Ben Hulston & Sophia J Carey
DRS will drop his fifth solo album Del-Rok-Ski on September 30 via Shogun Audio.
His seventh album in total – including collaborative LPs with Dynamite and LSB – Del-Rok-Ski follows a life-changing period in the Manchester artist’s life during which he battled for sobriety, quitting a 20+ year reliance on drugs and alcohol.
As lockdown ended he flew out of the gates with the genuinely phenomenal Man Who Fell To Earth live concept show and sold out tour (including two agenda-setting shows in Manchester’s Gorton Monastery and London’s famous Jazz Café) Following that up with a summer of major league live shows at festivals across Europe, Del-Rok-Ski will land straight after. As the first album he’s written sober, it’s arguably his most personal and honest body of work to date.
The roll-out is already in full flow. The brutalist roll-out Comme Ci (with T95) fired the starter pistol earlier this year in March. It was recently followed by the recent titanic dual Waiting To Go with new-gen MC Duskee and Disrupta.
Plenty more is expected to land throughout the summer as more music is revealed over the next few months. DRS’s first album on Shogun Audio, it’s a nod back to the energy and spice of his earlier evergreen Soul:r albums I Don’t Usually Like MCs But and Mid Life Crisis… Just no holds barred bars and beats from an exciting cross-section of D&B from familiar friends such as Dub Phizix and Dogger to new comrades like Document One and Drumantle.
Other collaborations to feature on Del-Rok-Ski include Calibre, Tyler Daley, Mindstate, LSB, Monrroe and Emilie Rachel.
Catching up with Del between massive shows at Glastonbury and Outlook, it’s far cry from the Del I spoke to for this article in early 2020 when he alludes to how MCs are controlled by low fees and glass ceilings. During the time between these two conversations, he fell to earth… then rose to the very top. This is DRS where he was always meant to be. And he’s only just started to rise. Bring on September 30. Here’s what you can expect…
Your live show man. I was at the Jazz Club. Just wow.
That was the point of the wind change. You literally witnessed the wind change right there. Nothing has been the same since that moment. I’ve entered the big boys club. I was always in it but now I’m in it officially.
Always. The whole build up to that involved such a big life change, right?
Yeah man. Going sober. That changed everything. You have to change everything; your circle of friends, which is sad, loads of things you love you’ve got to separate yourself from. Loads of things you enjoy. Including drink and drugs haha.
That means changing so many parts of your life doesn’t it?
Everything bro. But I was always thinking about it. It would be the same every Sunday. I’d think, ‘Right, I’m knocking it on the head this time.’ Then it’s like, ‘Okay we’ll get to Friday and see how it goes.’ Then it’s a vicious circle. But because I’m thinking about it, I knew I was going to do it… I just didn’t know when. Then lockdown was the perfect time. It wasn’t even a conscious thing. I didn’t do it again and I haven’t. And it’s been nearly three years now.
Congratulations! What did you discover about yourself during that process?
I’ve thought it about so much, analysing it over and boiled it down to anxiety and stage fright. I would get so pissed that I could slip into the DRS character. I don’t like the thought of getting on stage and being on stage, but it was what I was born to do. So I’ve always had that moment when it clicks and it feels like nobody’s there. I thought it was drink and drugs that was helping me with that, but it’s when my soul connects to the music and everything goes black. I don’t see the DJ, nothing but the light and I’ve got my eyes closed trying to remember the words. Trying to get it all out there. So yeah, it’s been… I don’t want to say it’s been a change, it’s more of a metamorphosis.
Like a progression?
Yeah. And remember one of the last times we spoke I said about there being rules and there’d been a ceiling on things for MCs. But when I got sober I realised I was letting them put a ceiling on it. That’s the point where I started going sick. Going sick on lockdown, writing, making content, podcasting, went crazy – I wanted to get my face in front of people’s face so when lockdown’s gone we’re at the front of the queue.
It was a tactical thing when I look back. At the time it was like, ‘I’ll try this, I’ll try that.’ But it was chess when I look back and now we got all these amazing things coming up. That came because I decided not to be dictated to and told what I rules I had to play by. It’s easy to point the finger isn’t it? But you let suppression happen to you. It’s like the thing about staying in your home town too long or it’ll kill your dreams.
Now I’m seeing clearer than ever and I’m fully in control of this vehicle. It’s scary, these leaps of faith are fucking terrifying but what we should always know our people will always catch us. Even when it feels like they’re not, they are. That’s the blessing of the word mate.
Goosebumps!! Faith in yourself, too. The album title say that to me. It’s you. Pure you.
I’m not hiding behind anything. Before I was speaking the truth, but I had a shield. Now this is the most honest work I’ve done to date. I’ve never written sober. So the whole experience is new. I’m half waiting for people to say things aren’t as good.
No chance of that. Instantly from Waiting To Go it’s clear something big is coming. All those different explorations with different collaborations.
Thanks man. Yeah the people I worked with on it are half family and half whoever Shogun sent us. If I stick to my family it’s more likely to sound like other albums. But if they throw in some wild cards, and we try new things, we can find something new.
I’ve never actually been A&R’d before. Even Marcus didn’t A&R. He trusted me. He’d pick the best tunes for the album, but I had total creative freedom. But with this one I realised that A&Ring brought something new out of me. Like a beat I wouldn’t have necessarily picked, but I’ve tried something new on it and it’s been really liberating. Like letting someone else have a little go on the wheel for a bit.
When you’ve been in control and you’ve been such a control freak over your whole career it’s a mad thing to do. Artists in general are like crucifix fingers to A&R and anyone having a hand in your creations, but I’ve done it the other way around so I’ve found it really interesting.
Yeah usually artists start off being A&R’d, long for more control spend years trying to get that independence. You’ve flipped that.
It’s funny innit. And also since going sober I’m not hiding. I don’t want to hide any more. I want to take this beautiful thing we’ve all had a hand in creating, and we all own equally, and take my brand of that as far as I can.
If I can get it in the charts, I’ll get it in the charts as long as I’m not compromising in any way. I want to take this as far and wide as possible. The rest of my life I was in the shadows hiding because I was either hungover or coming down or under it, but now it feels so good.
Yes! It’s only a matter of time. The band and the live concept brings so many things together – you highlight the artform and how versatile both drum & bass and MC culture is. More and more people are realising that now.
You’re right there bro. No disrespect to anyone but pretty every stadium bass artist you can think of has asked me to work with them in the last year, but I’ve told them no. That’s no dis, it’s just that I’ve got a vision now and I know where this is going. I’ve had enough people piggyback on me…
Every artist ever. And I remember you once saying that the raw reality of that was that you’d take on all those features because of the ceiling you mentioned. You needed the work and grabbed it while you could.
Yeah yeah yeah there was definitely times of that over the years. But on the flip of that there was always the thought about L’il Wayne. He saturated the market with his voice before he blew up. So that’s always been in my mind too, you know?
As long as it’s good shit, people are always going to want to hear you. I’m testament to that. We get sick of people because it’s the same thing over and over again. Like it’s a regurgitation. But I’ve always been conscious of things sounding the same. In the hundreds of tunes there are about three that are remotely related to each other, but they all sound different and I think that’s another reason why I’m here now. That with a load of luck and the lockdowns and here we are!
DRS – Del Rok Ski is out September 30 on Shogun Audio